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Superstar athletes who run wineries

The Examiner

Owning a vineyard and making your own wine is a dream shared by people in all walks of life, including pro athletes. These seven sports superstars—a Formula One world driving champion, Heisman Trophy-winning Pro Bowl NFL cornerback, four-time NASCAR Cup champion, Hall of Fame pitcher who led the New York Mets to their first World Series title, a Rose Bowl and Super Bowl-winning coach, another race car driver and an elite PGA golfer once ranked No. 1 in the world—have turned their dreams into a reality by establishing wineries or wine collections.

Despite their varied backgrounds, all share one thing in common: a love of wine. Known mainly for their sports achievements, they would also like to be known as the makers of excellent Cabernets.

Mario Andretti

Mario Andretti looks every inch the consummate winemaker: hale, hearty, in robust good health. If you did not know better you would not suspect he was one of the fastest men to ever drive a racing car, the winner of the Indianapolis 500 and Formula One world racing crown, among many other titles. Long retired from racing, the 74-year-old oversees a Napa Valley winery that goes by his name. Andretti Winery's Montona Reserve wines are named after the area in Italy where he was born and raised before immigrating to the U.S. as a teenager. Tastings and tours are available.

...


Dick Vermeil

Dick Vermeil’s roots are solidly anchored in Napa Valley, where he was born in his great grandfather’s house in Calistoga. He attended Napa Junior College and San Jose State before beginning his storied coaching career. After leading UCLA to the Rose Bowl title, he joined the Philadelphia Eagles and took them to the 1980 Super Bowl, which they lost. Twenty years later, after a successful stint as a broadcaster, he corrected that gap in his resume by winning the Super Bowl with the St. Louis Rams. Known for his energy and work ethic, the 77-year-old is still working the land at Vermeil Wines, which has tasting rooms in Calistoga and Napa. Its tasting room in Calistoga features some of the coach’s football memorabilia.



Read more at The Examiner



How Useful Is a Wine Expert's Opinion?
by Jon Tourney
Wines & Vines


UC Davis study indicates consumers and experts differ significantly in wine preferences


Davis, Calif.—A study involving wine sensory character, quality perception and preferences by wine experts, trained panelists and consumers indicates consumers have a wider range of wine sensory “likes” than expert tasters and competition judges. The results suggest that consumers are likely better off trusting their own preferences to choose wines they like, rather than relying on “expert” advice. University of California, Davis, professor and sensory scientist Dr. Hildegarde Heymann discussed the study at the Department of Viticulture & Enology’s annual research update meeting, Recent Advances in Viticulture & Enology (RAVE), held March 13.

Heymann’s presentation, “Judging wine quality: Do we need experts, consumers or trained panelists?” was based on an evaluation of Cabernet Sauvignon wines from a recent California State Fair Wine Competition by different tasting panels. The wines were from nine different California regions representing regional award categories in the competition. Three wines were used from each region: the top scoring wine (usually a gold or double gold medal), the lowest scoring wine (no medal), and one median score wine (usually a silver or bronze medal).

The 27 wines were evaluated by a group of 15 trained panelists who came up with a list of sensory character terms for the wines through a descriptive analysis based on reference standards. The descriptor list included 17 aroma terms, two taste terms and two mouthfeel terms.

The consumer evaluation involved 174 red wine consumers who were asked to evaluate each wine based on: liking (dislike extremely to like extremely), and quality (low quality to high quality). The consumers were also given a 15-question exam to determine their level of wine knowledge. The consumers’ knowledge levels covered a wide range from low to high.

Heymann said, “There were consumers who liked all of these wines. Since these are all commercial wines, that’s good news for the companies trying to sell these wines.” But she noted there was significant disagreement in quality ratings among consumers. Every wine was rated high quality, and every wine was rated low quality by different consumers on the panel.

The expert panel included 28 wine experts who were asked to rate how they liked the wines on a nine-point scale from dislike extremely to like extremely. There was more agreement among the experts in terms of liking than among the consumers. The experts’ quality ratings also correlated similarly with the State Fair judges’ scores. Comparing descriptive analysis of the wines with quality ratings, the gold medal wines tended to be more balanced in the middle in terms of descriptive characters present.

Heymann said that while the descriptive panel tells about the wine product, consumers make choices in less controlled ways. When the same wines are given to experts and competition judges, the results are fairly similar between those two groups.

She added, “The descriptive panel terms help explain what experts are looking at for their preference and quality evaluation, but not what the consumers are looking at.” She noted that quality evaluations by the experts were able to identify attributes associated with high and low quality. However, the study indicates that consumer preference was all over the map and not consistent enough to provide descriptive correlations with wine quality.

In the post-talk Q&A, RAVE attendee and wine industry consultant Tom Selfridge asked, “Would you say this suggests that a consumer should not go to a wine expert if they want to find a wine they personally like?” Heymann answered, “Absolutely.”

Heymann commented on issues faced by consumers who do not have significant wine knowledge and don’t often buy wine. “I often hear people say, ‘I don’t buy wine because I don’t want to make a mistake,’” Heymann said. She observed that everyone makes decisions about how they dress every day, and the cost of clothing is usually more than the cost of a bottle of wine that someone may take to a dinner with friends. Consumers are comfortable making decisions about how they appear to the world every day, but with a bottle of wine they get tied up in fears about how their choice is perceived. “That’s a problem created by the wine industry,” Heymann said.


Wine regional character and chemistry
Heymann also discussed preliminary results of a chemical analysis of wines from a regional perspective using microwave plasma atomic emission spectroscopy to do volatile and non-volatile analyses and elemental analyses. The elements evaluated in relation to regional wine differences were calcium, potassium, sodium, magnesium, aluminum, strontium, barium and rubidium. The initial results indicate there are elemental differences in the wines evaluated that are more region-related than wine- or variety-related. This suggests it may be possible to do regional identification of wines based on elemental analyses.

Read more at
Wines & Vines.



Where have all the flowers gone?

By: Tribune Staff
Mud City Weekender, published February 2014

The Napa Valley, usually a verdant landscape of yellow mustard and bright green cover crops hugging chocolate brown dormant vines all winter, is stark and colorless as the drought takes it toll on the state’s second-most popular destination in the state.
Click here to read the rest of the article.


Is Napa Zinfandel facing a headwind?

By: Jon Bonné
SFGate.com , published December 2012

Typically, it's the new year when we turn our thoughts to the Zinfandel from California's most famed wine region. But now is a season for hearty red wines, so why not get a holiday jump?

The 2010 vintage was a curious one for Zinfandel - relatively cool, yet with heat spikes that particularly affected this grape.

In Napa, at least, judicious farming seems to have won out at least some of the time. Napa Zinfandels offer a dust-edged nuance that shows the variety's classiest side, and the best of our tasting absolutely echoed those characteristics.

I did wonder if the roster of Napa Zinfandels is shrinking. Our tasting was smaller than in past years, even factoring in that we didn't see the latest from a number of perennial favorites in our lineup this time - Storybook, Green & Red and Robert Biale, for instance. Perhaps the cool vintage required extra aging.

But at the same time, I wondered if Napa, where land has become shockingly expensive, might increasingly be laying its chips with more rarefied wine. Napa Zinfandel has been struggling against neighboring Sonoma on the price curve for some time now. At some point, would smart money turn to Cabernet?

I hope not. Not just because Napa needs diversity in the field, but because its Zins are particular treasures. Here's hoping we continue to see an abundance in the future.

2010 Vermeil Wines Luvisi 1908 Block Calistoga Zinfandel ($38, 15.8%): As in NFL coach Dick Vermeil, with his winemaker Paul Smith, tapping some historic vineyards. In this case, it's the Luvisi family's 1908 planting (Vermeil also uses Frediani), and a strong case for the virtue of old vines. Through mucho oak char and jam, the sheer quality of the fruit bursts through - brambly berry, watermelon skin and a dusty mineral grip that shows the value of keeping old roots in Calistoga's loamy soils.

2010 Hendry Block 28 Napa Valley Zinfandel ($35, 15.9% alcohol): George Hendry and his family have been loyal to this grape through the years, working near the base of Mount Veeder. Their Blocks 7 & 22 bottle will be a pleasure in another year, but right now the Block 28, grown on thin Boomer soils, shows a density and berryish tang, matched to heady blue-plum flavors, almost like slivovitz brandy, and a dry-bark edge.

2010 Turley Wine Cellars Rattlesnake Ridge Howell Mountain Zinfandel ($40, 16.1%): Larry Turley has a fond spot for this site high up in the northeastern corner of Howell Mountain, and this is Turley doing what it does best. The chewy, granitic tannins of Howell Mountain are matched by cinnamon and violet, with amazingly concentrated, dark blackberry fruit. One of those examples of power revealing itself without being obvious.

2010 Mike & Molly Hendry R.W. Moore Vineyard Napa Valley Zinfandel ($38, 14.8%): From a new generation of Hendrys: Mike, George's nephew; and his wife, Molly, the niece of Bill Moore, whose 105-year-old Coombsville vineyard (you might know it as Earthquake) is a Napa icon. This second vintage from the couple shows powerful tannins, a minerally edge and dry-thyme accents to lift perfumed plum and black raspberry. A sign of Coombsville's beauty with this grape.

2010 Ravenswood Napa Valley Zinfandel ($16, 14.5%): Credit due to Ravenswood for delivering a solid Napa wine at a price rarely seen anymore, and for deftly handling the odd vintage. A relatively simple bottle, but with great tangy berry fruit and a tight, dusty edge that will be welcome to old-school fans feeling adrift in the Zin seas.

Panelists: Jon Bonné, Chronicle wine editor; Gordana Josovic, sommelier, Epic Roasthouse.


Check Out Coach Vermeil at Super Bowl Media Day - January 30th, 2014


The Super Bowl is fast approaching, and the game-day hype would not be complete without beloved Super Bowl winning Coach Dick Vermeil talking about his two loves: football and wine. You can catch Coach Vermeil on:

Time

Market

Station

Show

7:35a

NATIONAL

NFL Network (TV)

NFL-AM

8:00a

NATIONAL

SIRIUS/XM (radio)

NFL Channel / "Opening Drive"

8:15a

Chicago

670 The Score

8:30a

Houston

790 KBME

8:45a

Kansas City

810 ESPN

Chad Boeger Show

9:00a

NATIONAL

NBC Sports Radio

Brian Kenny Show

9:20a

NATIONAL

CBS Sports Radio

Tiki, Brandon and Dana in the Morning

9:35a

Denver

The Press Box

9:45a

Dallas

KRLD Dallas

10:00a

Jacksonville, FL

WJXL

Mike Dempsey Show

10:15a

Kansas City

610 KC

Bob Fescoe

10:30a

Seattle

710 ESPN

Dave Wyman and Bob Stelton

10:45a

Miami

940 WINZ

Jeff DeForrest

11:00a

Denver

KKFN

Sandy Clough Show

11:15a

NATIONAL

NFL Network (TV)

Melissa Stark and Steve Mariucci

11:35a

NATIONAL

Fox Sports Radio

Jason Smith Show

12:20p

NATIONAL

FoxSports.com

Laura Okmin

12:45p

NATIONAL

NFL.COM

1:05p

Central TX

ESPN (3 stations)

1:25p

NATIONAL

Westwood One

Amani Toomer and Eytan Shander

2:00p

NATIONAL

YAHOOSports

"Prime Cut"

2:15p

Miami

Dolphins TV/Radio

2:30p

San Antonio, TX

ESPN

"The Hardline"

2:50p

NATIONAL

USATODAY.com

3:05p

Nashville

Titans 104.5 The Zone

3:20p

Denver

KOA 850

Reid Fisher (air time 6:35)

3:35p

Denver

KCKK

Mile High Sports

3:50p

Washington, DC

106.7 The Fan

Lavar Arrington

4:00p

San Francisco

KNBR 1050

4:15p

Nashville

SIRIUS/XM (radio)

"Movin' the Chains" with Pat Kirwan and Jim Miller

4:35p

Las Vegas

ESPN

"Gridlock"

4:50p

St. Louis

CBS Sports Radio 920

5:15p

Denver

TV with Woody Paige

5:30p

NATIONAL

SIRIUS/XM (radio)

Chris "MadDog" Russo



Join in the Twitter conversation by using #MediaDay.


Coq au Vermeil Sweet Semillon: A Romantic Dinner

By: Tommy Di Maggio

This is a variation from the classic French recipe for Coq au Vin. "When the old rooster, or coq, would lose his crow, he would find himself the main ingredient in this classic French country fricassee," says Irma Rombauer from Joy of Cooking. I on the other hand, do not use an "old rooster," which some can argue would be more flavorful but, not as tender. I like to use Stewing Chickens. They usually range in age from 10 to 18 months and can weigh between 3 to 6 pounds. Perfect for this recipe. With that said I personally like using just the thighs. The thighs are moist, meaty, easy to handle and I don't particularly care for the breast meat; but that's just me talking. Oh yeah I do like the wings!

This is an easy dish that looks like it's hard to prepare; it's not. It looks good, tastes delicious, and will make YOU look like a great chef. It's the Vermeil Sweet Semillon wine that kicks this over the top. I have made this in the past using other wines and it came out good, but after using Dick Vermeil's Sweet Semillon, the other wines are, how do you say in your country - histoire.

Let’s get started.

4-6 chicken thighs: (You guessed it I'm using thighs, use what you want!) I like to trim all the yellow fatty parts off the thighs, less fat for us to absorb in already fatty bodies. The way they sell chicken today, you ever notice they give us all that extra weight in overlapping skin? Trim that too; we don't need it.

Season with salt & pepper and dried thyme. Now a lot of people would leave it at that, but let’s get serious. Nothing wrong with good old S&P but, were all trying to be "gourmets" now days. In addition to the S&P & thyme I use the Kirkland brand, Organic No-Salt Seasoning, (Mrs. Dash makes something similar), I'm a Costco freak. Slip your fingers under the skin, and carefully lift it and season directly on the meat. Does that feel serious?

Dust the chicken in AP flour, and set it aside.

Nice Bacon, diced not too small.

Fry the bacon in a heavy bottom, high sided Dutch oven type pot. Make sure it's big enough, it's going to get full.

Remove the perfectly browned bacon, add enough olive oil to cover the bottom. A lot of chefs would have you using some fancy extra virgin olive oil at this point, but I think it's a waste. When you're done with this dish there are going to be so many flavors that tasting that fancy olive oil are slim to none. It's like using a showy vodka and adding, 7-UP, grenadine, cherries and an umbrella. It's a waste of good vodka!

Just as nice piece of Italian Sausage, put in a small pan and put into the 350 degree oven until cooked. Pay attention to it, move it around, turn it. When it's done put it with the perfectly browned bacon. They're like cousins, they'll be happy together.

Get the pan hot, NOT BLAZING, then with your cooking tongs add the chicken. Now pay attention, no leaving the kitchen now. It's time to become one with your chicken. As it browns turn it, a couple of times on each side, it should brown slowly. Maybe you should be listening to the French song Je t'aime moi non plus, by Monsieur Serge Gainsbourg & Jane Birkin. You should be falling in love with your chicken by now, this could be the beginning of a beautiful romance. Cooking is love, If you’re not falling in love by now, turn off the stove, leave the kitchen and call the Colonel, because you're not ready for this.

Add:

* 1/2 cup chopped onions

* 3 or 4 peeled carrots cut in half inch chunks, I like carrots so I use more.

* 1 diced shallot

* 1/2 half of each red and green bell pepper, seeded and sliced into strips

Lovingly stir in with the chicken, I like to put the veggies under the chicken so they can saute', let them all become friends for 5 minutes or so, until they start to become tender.

Now that they're tender and vulnerable lets get the "friends" drunk!

Add 1 37.5cl (a split) of VERMEIL SWEET SEMILLON, I used a 2009.

Look-Smell-and Stir. Stirring is very important. But always stir gently!

Add 1 cup of chicken stock (homemade is best, but the store has some good stuff now days)

A couple of bay leaves, little more thyme, add the nice bacon and slice the Italian Sausage in to thin slices and add.

Cover and put into a 350 degree oven, this should take about 45 minutes. . . .

You should have changed the music by now, try “A Little French Song” by Carla Bruni. She is the wife of ex-president of France, Nicolas Sarkosy, very pretty and a lovely voice.

Have you had a glass of wine yet? Hurry up. You're late!

I would pair this dish with a VERMEIL XXXIV Proprietary Red Wine. (Are you singing with Carla yet? It's an easy song.)

Mushrooms/Champignons; I use regular white mushrooms, the most common in the grocery store, but if you want a crimini mushroom would be good too. Maybe half and half. Cut into quarters not sliced or they will get lost in this dish.

Slowly open your oven and be careful not to get the hot blast of the fragrant smell about to be expelled from the oven. Uncover your treasure, gently stir and add the mushrooms, and some chopped flat leaf Italian parsley, gently stir and put back into the oven uncovered.

When everything is bubbling and looking like it's cooked (USE YOUR HEAD, you've seen this before), you can turn the oven off and let it stand/rest. This can stay like this for a while. While you're waiting for your GUEST, remember this is supposed to be a romantic dinner, you can set the table, arrange the flowers get the candles ready.

The last time I served this I served it with an incredible potato dish, but I'm not giving that information at this time. Google incredible potato dishes, you're on your own now. I've already given you enough information.

You're ready to go, do I have to explain how to serve it?

Don't forget the great French bread you bought at that special French bakery to sop up all the delicious sauce you just created. In France it's very important to sop up all the juices so as to compliment your host!

After the meal listen to La Mer by Charles Trenet, stand on your chair with you glass of VERMEIL XXXIV Proprietary Red Wine like you are Charles de Gaulle and toast your date!

Now put Je t'aime back on. . . . . 

So like Coach, this dish is a little French and a little Italian, and maybe some Cajun. I'm looking forward to making it for him some day at our hunting camp in Montana.

Tommy Di Maggio has been in the restaurant business for over 50 years. He has had restaurants in Colorado and Arizona. Currently he has a goat packing business called Purple Mountain Pack Goats, and a food truck called The On The Road Cafe' in Arizona.



Vermeil Wines' Napa tasting room adds a bit of nightlife

By: Carey Sweet, Freelance Writer
The San Francisco Chronicle

The original Vermeil Wines tasting room is in downtown Calistoga, but owner Dick Vermeil has bigger dreams, so he opened a satellite salon at First and Main streets in downtown Napa last summer.

His presence adds a bit of celebrity to the corner, since Vermeil is the Super Bowl-winning NFL head coach who worked with the Philadelphia Eagles, St. Louis Rams and Kansas City Chiefs until he retired in 2005. Since 2008, the Calistoga native has been in the professional wine business, making a Vermeil brand in tribute to his father, Jean Louis Vermeil II.

The vibe: Similar to the Calistoga location, it's football, football and more football. Photos are everywhere - of stadiums, players, sports celebrities and Vermeil himself. An alcove boasts leather chairs and a big-screen TV showing football, and a stylized logo on the wall looks like a football.

But look again and you will see vineyard photos, plus an old-growth vine trunk featured as sculpture. Vermeil partners with the Frediani family of Napa Valley for its grapes, first planted in 1895, when Abramo Frediani settled on Pickett Road near Calistoga after emigrating from Vallico Sotto, Tuscany. Today, Andrew Curry is the tasting room manager.

The experience: Napa is bursting with tasting rooms these days, with nearly two dozen choices. Vermeil isn't high-energy or distinctive, really, but it does please with its cosmopolitan design and intimate, relaxed mood.

You can taste at the bar, but it's more fun to take a seat on a leather banquette with a restaurant-style table, or on outdoor sofas so big they nearly swallow you as you people-watch next to the sidewalk. The hosts will bring the wines to you, describing each, then leave you to enjoy your sampling. As a bonus, the space stays open as late as 11 p.m., proving that downtown is finally evolving a decent nightlife scene.

The team: Garibaldi Iaccheri, Dick's great-grandfather, brought his family to Calistoga in 1906 and later opened the Calistoga Wine Co. Dick was born in the Calistoga home in 1936. Paul Smith is the winemaker and is also founder of OnThEdge Winery of Calistoga.

The wines: One caveat - prices are high, ranging from $15 to $40 for five flights of three tastes each. Pours are fair, however, at about 2.5 ounces. Probably the best value is the most expensive flight, the "Red Zone," bringing a 2009 JLV Cabernet Sauvignon ($22 glass/$85 bottle), 2010 Integrity Calistoga Red ($26/$100), and 2010 Pickett Road Cabernet Sauvignon ($35/$125).

The extras: Wines are available by the glass, and you can add nibbles like a cheese plate ($15) or nuts and olives ($8). Perfect for a sweet tooth, a $25 flight includes a 2009 XXXIV Proprietary Red ($12/$42), 2010 Frediani Zinfandel ($14/$42), 2010 Late Harvest Sweet Semillon ($8/$18) and three morsels of chocolate.

If you go: 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Sun.-Wed.; 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Thurs.-Sat. 1018 First St., Napa. (707) 254-9881. www.vermeilwines.com.


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